I’m that guy who sleeps with his window open slightly in the winter to make it even colder in my room. Sounds insane, though you have to admit nothing beats getting wrapped up in a warm blanket when there’s a chill in the air. I would rather be too cold than too hot, as you can always put more layers on. Sometimes, an uneventful snow day is the cause. On days like today when I’m stuck inside, a blanket can only get me so far. I put my casual cooking skills to the test to see if I can knock out my top five list of comfort foods and snacks to enjoy on a cold winter’s day!
5. Chicken Fingers and French Fries: One of today’s most beloved combinations is a no-brainer classic choice. It has long been the safest meal to get at any restaurant you have never eaten at before. I mean, anyone who messes up chicken fingers and fries belongs behind bars. Period. To change it up a bit, I’ve been known to mix barbecue and hot sauce together with southern spices to create boneless buffalo strips which I then dip in cool ranch. Deep fried awesomeness after coming inside freezing from shoveling. You cannot beat it, but because of the simplicity, it comes in at number five.
4. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup: Another age-old classic duo which has many fans. Anyone that is not may be known to support ketchup on steak, or possibly cheered on the fiery incinerator at the end of Toy Story 3. An overall bad person if I’ve ever seen one. Crispy, extra cheesy goodness dipped in a bath of Campbell’s finest red tomato soup is soothing just to think about. Good for the soul, as they say. Warm enough to melt down the snowman you just built. I’d imagine anyone’s reaction to eating this pan-seared piece of heaven is similar to Violet Beauregarde’s burst of love for the flavors in the three course dinner chewing gum at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory (prior to becoming a giant blueberry, of course). Recently, I have experimented with Parmesan garlic bread on the outside of my grilled cheese with beef flavored marinara sauce on the inside with mozzarella cheese. Add pepperoni for a complete experience! It’s grilled cheese, tomato soup, and pizza all in one.
3. Cheesesteaks: I’ve worked around cheesesteaks for a very long time. Enough experiences for a future post. I’ve tried every possible topping, every combination, and while hard to convince myself, I have to agree that sometimes simple is the best route to go. Heavily seasoned thin sliced sirloin steak, brazed with garlic butter is to be topped with your choice of American or Mozzarella cheese. The only thing left is to put that trio on the most beautifully toasted long Italian roll. On the side, I would already have some diced onions sautéing with hot cherry peppers for an added kick. When finished, I lay them on top of the base steak to be melted into the cheese followed by a simple salt and pepper dusting over everything. A little ketchup and hot sauce will get ‘er done for me, fellas. Arizona iced tea on the side and I’m a happy man!
2. S’mores: *Insert Sandlot reference here.* You all knew it was coming. If you didn’t, then I need to have a talk with your parents for not raising you right. If I had to explain how completely and utterly delicious s’mores are, I’ll have to take you back to this past summer at Indian Head camp where I was a counselor. One of my favorite campers was an amazing kid named Filippo who lived in Italy and came to America for just a month every summer for this camp. He had never heard of s’mores, but after his first bite, his eyes shot open. He began to confess his profound love out loud and even did some cartwheels. I was honored to give him mine as we were only supposed to get one per person. The delectable crunchy graham cracker somehow morphs together with the gooey marshmallows and chocolate perfectly to form one of the top creations on God’s green earth. The lusciousness and warmth is perfect when you are snowed in. Use the flame on your stove, or even pop one in the microwave.
1. Lasagna and Baked Ziti: S’mores still deserves the praise I gave it. It came up short at number two because they won’t exactly fill you up. “It will if you eat a lot of them!”, says my mind, but only if I had someone to make them for me. A personal s’mores butler, if you will. That’s why I’m completely content with my number one choice: lasagna and baked ziti. A perfectly layered crisp lasagna whether by itself or with ground beef is second to none. A whole tray of Ziti is a welcomed sight any day, and could put me in a self-induced food coma. Combined with garlic bread and Parmesan cheese, it’s a deadly combo to delightfully overwhelm your senses. The only downside is having to wait so long for it to finish in the oven after taking long enough to prepare if you are making it from scratch. Waiting one minute for something this enticing is too long for me but it’s well worth the impatient journey, I promise. Here’s a thought: load up on the pasta like a marathon runner before shoveling for added strength. By the time you’re done, you’ll be ready for a nice nap.
That’s all for me and my top five comfort foods and snacks for a cold winter’s day. Did I miss any? Comment below with your favorites! I hope everyone gets to enjoy one of these fine eats and shares an experience like mine. Drive safe, stay warm, and take this time to enjoy a nice meal with family!
Hunter Dillon is a guest blogger on Eating New Jersey. As a hockey player, he is always on the go, which has served as the inspiration for his “Casual Crusades” column. He has more than four years of restaurant kitchen experience and can cook up the best cheesesteaks outside of Philadelphia.